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  5. Ultimate Guide to Inflatable Kayaks – the Best Inflatable Kayaks

Ultimate Guide to Inflatable Kayaks – the Best Inflatable Kayaks

The call of the water is strong, and for many adventurers, kayaking is the perfect way to answer it. But traditional kayaks can be bulky and cumbersome, especially if you don’t have a roof rack or ample storage space.

That’s where inflatable kayaks come in – these ingenious vessels offer all the fun and freedom of kayaking with unbeatable portability.

This guide will be your one-stop shop for inflatable kayaks. We’ll explore what they are, how to choose the best kayak for your needs, and the key differences between inflatables and stand-up paddle boards (SUPs), another popular choice. 

We’ll also cover essential gear and accessories, maintenance tips, and even share some of our top picks for inflatable kayaks in 2024. If you’re looking for an inflatable kayak, you’re paddling in the right place!

Understanding Inflatable Kayaks

An inflatable kayak, sometimes called an inflatable boat, is essentially a kayak constructed from durable PVC material. These kayaks are designed to be deflated and inflated using a hand pump (often included) or a foot pump (sold separately).

Deflated, they pack down to a surprisingly small size, fitting easily into a backpack or carry bag – a stark contrast to the struggle of transporting a hard shell kayak.

This portability makes inflatable kayaks a fantastic option for:

  • Campers and backpackers: Take your kayak adventures further afield with no need for a roof rack or trailer.
  • Those with limited storage space: Store your deflated kayak in a wardrobe, garage, or even under your bed.
  • Anyone who wants a hassle-free paddling experience: Forget wrestling with a heavy kayak – inflatables are easy to inflate and deflate, getting you on the water quicker.
  • Portable when you can’t park next to the beach: As well as being easy to set up and pack away, you can also equip yourself with a bag or shoulder strap to make carrying your kayak to and from the water easier.

Gone are the days of needing a bulky and heavy kayak or canoe, inflatable kayaks and canoes are here to help you get on and glide through the water with ease. 

Choosing the Best Inflatable Kayak

With a growing range of inflatable kayaks available, choosing the right one can feel overwhelming. Here are some key factors to consider:

Number of paddlers:

Do you plan to paddle solo, with a partner, or even bring the whole family? Inflatable kayaks come in various sizes, from 1 person inflatable kayaks to 4 person inflatables. Popular options include 2 person (tandem inflatable kayaks) and 3 person kayaks, perfect for small groups or families.

Type of paddling:

Are you looking for a leisurely tour on calm water, or do you crave the thrill of whitewater rapids? Different inflatable kayaks are designed for different water conditions. Touring kayaks offer stability and comfort for relaxed paddling, while whitewater kayaks are more manoeuvrable and handle rougher waters better.


Inflatable kayaks range in price depending on features, brand, and size. There are great options for every budget, from entry-level inflatable kayaks like the Andes Blue Inflatable Two Person Kayak to premium models with advanced features, such as the Tahe Outdoors – Inflatable High-Pressure 2-Person.

Inflatable Kayak Vs. Stand Up Paddle Board

Both inflatable kayaks and SUPs offer fantastic ways to explore the water, but they have distinct differences. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Position: In a kayak, you sit with your legs stretched out in front. On a SUP, you stand on the board and propel yourself with a paddle.
  • Stability: Kayaks generally offer more stability due to their wider design and lower centre of gravity. SUPs can be trickier to balance, especially for beginners.
  • Use: Kayaks are ideal for exploring, fishing, or paddling with a partner. SUPs are great for exercise, yoga, or catching waves.

Overall, both kayaks and SUPs have their own advantages and are great options for water enthusiasts looking to enjoy the outdoors.

It ultimately comes down to personal preference and the specific activities you want to participate in. 

Inflatable Kayak Essential Gear and Accessories (and Safety)

Once you’ve chosen your inflatable kayak, there are a few essential extras to consider:

  • Paddles: Most inflatable kayaks come with paddles, but if they don’t or you lose/break the ones provided, you’ll need to purchase them separately. Choose paddles that are the right length and material for you. If easy storage is essential, make sure you look for a collapsible paddle.
  • Life jackets: Safety first! Always wear a buoyancy aid when kayaking, regardless of your experience level.
  • Repair kit: Minor punctures can happen. Pack a repair kit to fix any small leaks that might occur.
  • Dry bag: Protect your belongings from splashes and water with a dry bag.
  • Tarpaulin: A tarp provides a clean and dry surface for setting up your kayak and changing out of wet gear. It’s not essential as such, but it certainly helps on a sandy beach!

While we’re on the subject of gear, it’s important to think about safety. Whether using the best inflatable canoes or portable kayaks money can buy, safety is essential and will help you have peace of mind on the water.

As we’ve mentioned above, wearing a buoyancy aid is a must no matter what your experience, and carrying a mobile phone in your dry bag will ensure you can call for help if you get into difficulty.

Whether you’re new or regular to the area, make sure you familiarise yourself with the tides and currents before heading onto the water, and keep an eye out for rocks or sharp objects that could damage the bottom of the boat. 

For further advice, be sure to check out the guidance from the RNLI.   

Tips for Testing and Maintenance

Before heading out on a grand adventure, it’s always a good idea to test inflatable kayaks in a calm, shallow area. This allows you to get comfortable with inflation, deflation, paddling techniques, and safety procedures.

Here are some additional maintenance tips:

  • Always rinse your kayak with fresh water after use. This removes salt, dirt, and other debris that can damage the PVC material.
  • Dry your kayak completely before storing it. Leaving it damp can lead to mould growth.
  • Store your kayak deflated and out of direct sunlight. UV rays can degrade the PVC over time.
  • Inspect your kayak regularly for any signs of damage. Depending on the construction of the kayak, you’ll want to check for damage to the drop stitch and air chamber. Small punctures can be repaired with a patch kit, but larger tears may require professional attention.

Top Inflatable Kayak Picks for 2024

Now that you’re armed with all the essential knowledge, let’s explore some of the best inflatable kayaks on the market in 2024. Here are a few of our favourites, catering to different needs and budgets:

Best Budget Option: Intex Challenger K2

If you’re looking for a great value inflatable kayak for beginners or occasional paddlers, the Intex Challenger K2 is a fantastic choice. This 2-person kayak is easy to inflate and manoeuvre, making it perfect for leisurely paddles on calm lakes and rivers. It comes with a carry bag, paddles, and a repair kit, offering everything you need for a day on the water.

Best Tandem Kayak for Comfort: Aqua Marina Steam 412

For those seeking a comfortable and feature-rich inflatable kayak for two, the Aqua Marina Steam 412 is a great option. This tandem kayak boasts adjustable backrests, removable footrests, and an adjustable cargo bungee system to easily fasten your luggage, making it ideal for longer journeys. It also features a drop-stitch floor for added rigidity and improved tracking on the water.

Best All-Around Performer: Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame Inflatable Kayak

The Advanced Elements AdvancedFrame lives up to its name—this inflatable kayak features a unique aluminium frame that adds rigidity and improves paddling performance. Offering a high-support adjustable padded seat, it provides comfort for hours of paddling. It’s a great choice for kayakers who want a kayak that can handle a variety of water conditions, from calm lakes to mild rivers.

Best Inflatable Kayak for Stability: Sevylor Colorado

The Sevylor Colorado is designed for lakes and seashores. If you’re heading to the sea and you’re not the most experienced paddler, you don’t want to be caught out by an unexpected wave. The Sevylor’s broad shape and reinforced tarpaulin base ensure stability and comfort when out on the water. 

Remember: This is just a small selection of the fantastic inflatable kayaks available. We recommend browsing the range of inflatable kayaks for sale online.

Getting Out on the Water with Confidence

Inflatable kayaks open up a world of paddling possibilities, from tranquil lakes to gentle rivers and even calm coastal waters. They offer a winning combination of portability, convenience, and fun, making them a great choice for kayakers of all levels.

Here’s a reminder and some final pointers to ensure a safe and enjoyable paddling experience:

  • Always check the weather conditions before you head out.
  • Let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
  • Start on calm water and gradually build your confidence.
  • Invest in proper kayaking instruction, especially if you’re new to the sport.

By now, you should be well on your way to countless adventures on the water. So, grab your paddle, inflate your kayak, and get ready to experience the joy of kayaking!

Find your next inflatable kayak here